Communication and hypothetical thinking

Keith Frankish has an interesting article at Psyche pondering what ability separates modern humanity from archaic humans (such as homo erectus).  His vote is hypothetical thinking.  From the article: The ability I mean is that of hypothetical thinking – the ability to detach one’s mind from the here and now, and consciously think about other … Continue reading Communication and hypothetical thinking

Maybe we wiped Neanderthals out after all

Or at least, that's the conclusion of a paper which models the population changes and other factors involved. New model to study hominin interactions in time-varying climate environment. Neanderthals experienced rapid population decline due to competitive exclusion. Interbreeding only minor contributor to Neanderthal extinction. Abrupt Climate Change not major cause for demise of Neanderthals. Of … Continue reading Maybe we wiped Neanderthals out after all

Neanderthals and the beginnings of us

The Smithsonian has an interesting article up on what we currently know about Neanderthals.  The article details some of the internecine battles that always seems to be a part of the paleoanthropology field, in this case focusing on the capabilities of Neanderthals, whether they had art, religion, and other qualities of modern humans. Our view … Continue reading Neanderthals and the beginnings of us

The extraordinary low probability of intelligent life

Marc Defant gave a TEDx talk on the improbable events that had to happen in our planet's history for us to eventually evolve, along with the implications for other intelligent life in the galaxy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nCOhrYV7eg I find a lot to agree with in Defant's remarks, although there are a couple points I'd quibble with.  The … Continue reading The extraordinary low probability of intelligent life

The necessity of dexterity for civilization

Today's SMBC highlights something about humanity that is often overlooked, something that any extraterrestrial intelligence that builds a civilization would have to have. Click through for hover-text and red button caption. Source: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - The Mammal Conspiracy We often talk about the intelligence of dolphins, whales, cephalopods, elephants, and other species.  But … Continue reading The necessity of dexterity for civilization

Is there a moral arc to history?

The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. As someone who isn't able to find an objective basis for morality, I've often wondered what that means for the above statement from Martin Luther King.  It certainly feels like we're making moral progress, that the status of previously oppressed or marginalized people … Continue reading Is there a moral arc to history?

The power of symbolic thought

One of the things I've pondered a few times on this blog is our ability to recognize another intelligence, such as an extraterrestrial intelligence.  On the face of it, this seems straightforward.  Do they form societies, use technology, manipulate their environment, and overall show signs of intelligence? Except an alien intelligence may be so different from … Continue reading The power of symbolic thought

First Peoples and Neanderthals

This weekend, I finished off the last of the 'First Peoples' PBS miniseries on prehistoric humans.  If  you've watched other documentaries on human prehistory and found them interesting, then you'll want to watch this one to get the latest findings.  It was fascinating.  (A lot of people have mentioned 'Becoming Human' to me, which I've … Continue reading First Peoples and Neanderthals

Religion, the Axial Age, and theoretic culture

I recently read the late Robert Bellah's 'Religion in Human Evolution: From the Paleolithic to the Axial Age.'  Although the title of the book seems to narrow it to just religion, in ancient societies, religion was just about everything, so the book ended up being about the development of cultures, which isn't too surprising given … Continue reading Religion, the Axial Age, and theoretic culture

World’s Oldest Art Identified in Half-Million-Year-Old Zigzag

I've noted before that I think capabilities like human language didn't pop into being 50-75 thousand years ago, but developed over hundreds of thousands of years (if not millions).  Well, it looks like another piece of behavioral modernity may predate anatomically modern humans: World's Oldest Art Identified in Half-Million-Year-Old Zigzag. A zigzag engraving on a … Continue reading World’s Oldest Art Identified in Half-Million-Year-Old Zigzag